Leif Erikson monument

A monument with two stones stands at the entrance to Leif Erikson Park. The smaller stone has a marble plaque with the inscription "In Commemoration of Leif Erikson, the Norseman, who discovered America, A. D. 1000." The larger stone has a bronze plaque giving credit to John Loe, founder of the park. This photo was published along with an article on John Loe and Leif Erikson Park in the Minneapolis Posten, a Norwegian Language newspaper published in Minneapolis in October 1956.

File photo

This article originally ran in the Oct. 11, 1956, Minneapolis Posten, a Norwegian Language Newspaper.

Sioux City, Iowa. 1956 -- October 9 may be just another day to many children and adults in the United States, but not so to the children of John Loe.

John taught his children to celebrate Oct. 9 as the Founding Day of their country. Oct. 9 is the day designated as Leif Erikson Day and John Loe knew that Leif Erikson discovered America.

Loe did not stop with teaching his children such facts. He is responsible for a park in this city where for all to see who enter, there is emblazoned on a marble plaque the fact that "Leif Erikson discovered America in 1000 A.D."

Last year 59,853 persons passed this message on their way to the swimming pool in the park. As to how many passed by as they used other sections of the park there is no record.

The park covering 15 acres lies in what was once the north edge of Sioux City. Of late the city has begun to surround, it with sections of building projects.

John Loe looked to the future and saw that the time would come when the children would need playgrounds within the city. For years he, and he alone, bedeviled the city council and individuals to vote for the acquisition of this wooded area and its pretty stream for a city park.

In 1924 the city fathers and many civic-minded citizens accepted his idea and set aside the land for playgrounds. When it was laid out they wanted to name the park for Loe. He said, "No, make it the Leif Erikson Park.'

Then he set about to organize the Leif Erikson Memorial Association and single handed collected contributions for a monument to Leif the Lucky.

This monument at the entrance to the park stands unique among monuments. It consists of two stones, the larger a Goliath among stones, is estimated to weigh more than four tons. The stones are set in a concrete base with the smaller one in front and low enough that the top of it just reaches the bottom of the larger stone. Seen from a distance they appear as one great boulder.

On the smaller stone a marble plaque is inscribed "In Commemoration of Leif Erikson, the Norseman, who discovered America, A. D. 1000".

On the big stone, a bronze plaque gives credit to John Loe as founder of the park. Those plaques were affixed after the death of John Loe, but even this good American citizen might agree that it is well that he stand above to guard that great norwegian, Leif Erickson.

Sioux City, Iowa, sits on the banks of the Missouri River with not a stone in the area. For a rock garden the owner must transport his rocks. And so did John Loe import the two great boulders from the farm of Ole Losvold, fifty miles away. Just how he managed to get them to the park went away with Loe who died July 6, 1938, at the age of 62 years.

An article concerning Loe which appeared in the Washington Posten (Seattle), written by Kristin Haugen says:

"These stones are aristocrats in the stone world, these Loe-rocks -- granite colored with marble patches in all directions. They stand there and bear witness to the initiative, the determination and the high idealism of the man who in spite of indifference and lack of interest among our countrymen here never gave up before the enterprise was finished ... was it coincidence or was it fate, that just when John Loe's day was done, the monument was completed, which would not have been raised without his active brain, his energy and will?"

John Loe accomplished this park and yet during the near 38 years he lived in Sioux City he never missed a day from his work as a toolmaker or blacksmith with the Chicago and Northwestern Railway.

He was born in Oppdal, Norway and came to America with his brothers and sisters when he was 14 years old. The entire family, except the father, migrated from Norway. When John died eight of the eleven were yet living.

In 1903 he was married to Mary Kalstad, daughter of an outstanding pioneer farmer of South Dakota. They soon built a house, then as the family grew, six sons and one daughter, they built a larger and better home up on the hills far away from the business district.

John Loe continually added to his limited schooling by reading and studying. He was one of the few lay members of the Norwegian American Historical Society. He served all the offices of the local chapter of the Sons of Nor way.

Tom Loe in speaking of his father says, "Often we did not appreciate our hardworking father who continually quoted Norsk philosophy to us. "Sure Leif Erikson's colonizing attempts failed, but", said father, "a defeat well met magnifies a man more than Iany success".

"He taught os to remember Leif Erickson as the discoverer of America, as a pioneer in navigation, as a crusader for the church, and as a leader of men. Then he would add:

"Cattle die, kinsmen die,

One's self also dies

But a noble name will never die

If good renown one gets."

Loe continues, "My father worked hard and he never had much money, but he would have fun. His laughter would ring through the house when neighbors and old cronies came a visiting.

"He made us work but he was good to children. During the winter months, sometimes at lay-off times, he would sharpen skates for a price. If some youngster came, stood at the edge of the group alone and downcast, my Dad would say, 'What is it son, no money?" And then that boy went away with sharp skates.

"When I see the park for which the city spent $90,000, a park with a circular swimming pool of 100 feet radius; with tennis courts and sand lot baseball diamonds; with places for little boys to play Indian and cow boy and for little girls to play house, I am proud of the foresight of my father, John Loe, the Norwegian-American, who gave to Sioux City the Leif Erikson Park, and who gave to his children the admiration for and philosophies of the discoverer of America, Leif Erikson."

John Loe's widow died this past year in the home in Sioux City. Three sons, Sydney, John, and Paul live in Sioux City. The other children are: Thomas of Kansas City, Mo.; Joseph of elsa, Tex.; and Franklin and Lucille (Mrs. Orioen Van Dyke) of Houston, Texas.

All of the brothers and sisters who came with John Loe from Norway are gone except Martin of Camp Lake, Sask. Canada, but many nieces and nephews yet live around Bever, Minn.; Estherville, Iowa; Mt. Vernon, Washington, and Howard, S.D.

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